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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

And what did I learn this time?

Life can be a breeze here, when the dominoes fall in perfect succession. I have had that pristine line -up of  all things clicking into place, as they did when I made my plans to move here to Portland, when everything did come together as it should and the dominoes fell in a perfect wave of all I needed, all I wanted.

But now I am cleaning up all the dominoes of a recent experience, where they seemed to connect at first, but there was a piece or two out of sync that caused everything to scatter. I have found myself needing to secure a job here in the near future, so I do not blow through my retirement money and end up having to live with one of my children – not the scenario I have for my “golden years”, and not one I’m sure my children have either! So I started the job hunt a couple weeks ago, perusing Craigslist, and came upon what seemed to be the perfect job for me in so many ways. I started to line up the pieces, so sure they would all be in order.

Oh yes, this job seemed to be made just for me! A short 15 minute walk from my home, part – time hours in the morning which would leave my afternoons free, and located in a small holistic health clinic – the type of medicine that is near and dear to my heart, no longer wanting to be back in the world of Western, corporate medicine. And after my first interview with the clinic manager, I walked out of there cocky and confident, thinking about what kind of clothes I needed to buy for what I was sure was my new job.

But wait, not so fast. I was asked to come in for a second interview with one of the physicians. Well of course I was more than happy to meet with one of them and show what a great catch I was for their clinic; this was just a formality and then I could get started earning some much needed income.

But I started to realize as the interview progressed that I must have failed to line up one of those damn pieces just right, and things started to scatter everywhere. I went from a belief in myself that I could do this front desk job with ease to jumping into a defensive mode, as the physician interviewing me started asking his probing questions. I felt the energy shift palpably as he questioned my ability to handle stress; citing my reason for retiring from lab after 30 years of burnout and stress as a red flag to him, not confident that I could handle the stress of their front desk. Fair enough; I patiently explained the differences I saw between front desk stress in a clinic setting versus the stress of working in a hospital laboratory, literally dealing with life and death situations.  But when he asked me if I could handle the fact that some of their patients die, I almost had to laugh! After 30 years in healthcare, I unfortunately saw my fair share of patients die, but that did not discourage me from working in my field. I think that was when I knew my chances were oh so slim.

And then I received the response that I knew all along was coming – they hired another candidate. What have I learned? This is what I come to ask myself these days, with all experiences, good or bad. I’ve learned that there are times we think we know what is best, in our limited egocentric ways. But I know in my heart that for some very good reason, God and the Universe knew this was not my best place to work, and arranged it as such. So in that way, I learn trust, letting go of the bitterness my ego wants me to feel. I learned how to speak my truth, not making up a more pleasant reason for retirement, even though “burnout” to some may paint me as one who can’t handle the stress of work. And lastly, I learned honesty, especially with myself. Because deep inside, I knew this really wasn’t the place for me, but all the parts seemed to fit – except the part that was missing, and that was a genuine excitement to work there. And I learn that my soul really wants that, enthusiasm and joy when I do go back to work. So I patiently wait until I come upon the workplace that genuinely lights up my soul.

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Home and community – It’s all a matter of perspective

Home is where the heart is -Yes, it is a common, kitschy phrase often seen on pieces of arts and crafts that we display in our homes, where our hearts are. But moving past the overused phrase that it is, and really thinking about it, the place we call “home” and the place that brings a sense of community are just that – places on this earth that we resonate with and come to see with the eyes of our heart and soul.

I have often heard the lament of those who live in a small town that city dwellers live in a cold atmosphere of indifference; we pass each other on the street, strangers with our heads down,  lacking acknowledgment of one another. But I beg to differ. This morning I bypassed my usual routine of tea at home in my pajamas, and headed out in the cool morning air to one of my favorite coffeehouse haunts, the Fehrenbacher Hof, located in a delightful neighborhood of Portland called Goose Hollow. Just the fact that Portland is comprised of delightful neighborhoods like Goose Hollow within the confines of a big city tells me that a sense of community can be established anywhere, not just in a small town or less populated city.

As I sat on the porch outside “The Hof”, as it is affectionately called, I felt such a sense of belonging, even with the cacophony of the city sounds; cars, trains and a helicopter flying incredibly low overhead. And that small event, the helicopter buzzing the treetops, spurred on a conversation with a stranger and others around us, as we wondered what that was all about. Sitting there as I sipped my coffee, I began to feel like a greeter at Wal-Mart, saying “good morning” to just about every person who came in and out. We do make friendly connections in this urban setting!

Even my apartment building fosters a sense of community; a lovely circle of interactions and connections with the other tenants, pride taken in our building and even the apartment management. One of the tenants took it upon herself to thoroughly clean up the laundry room one day, lending a helping hand to our overworked manager/building maintenance man, taking pride in this place we call home. Another tenant has been so kind as to leave a bucket full of cut flowers in the foyer; leftovers from her job at a flower shop, as she shares with her fellow neighbors. And one morning we were treated to boxes of doughnuts in the foyer; a gift from the management company, to show appreciation for having such lovely tenants.

For many years the place I called home was a place I found myself in because of family ties, friends and familiarity. But life can be changeable and malleable, and we may find that home is a place that has been buried but now is ready to be uncovered. For me I unearthed my love of the city, and that city for me is Portland. Now I fully understand what the word home means, and it is here that I truly feel as if I am part of a community.

Home sweet home

Discovering mindfulness in a game of Scrabble

A friend and I spent the better part of a morning recently at Starbucks, having coffee and playing Scrabble, a game that I have to believe every writer enjoys – it is all about words! What could be better than that? And the best part was that my dear friend gave me the lovely red vintage box containing the retro Scrabble board and those beautiful wooden tiles of letters – the only things missing were the bag to hold the tiles and one of the wooden tile holders. She uncovered this treasure at Goodwill for only $2.00, but soon found that her family does not share her love of the game like she does. So in a lovely gesture of friendship, she gave it to me, after learning about my love of what has to be the greatest game ever. I used to have my own Scrabble set, but it was grudgingly sacrificed in the move to Portland, as I pared down to the bare necessities. So many memories attached to that game, as I would always make my children play Scrabble with me at Thanksgiving and Christmas – and surprisingly, I never won! But fear not, I made sure that my daughter bought a brand new Scrabble set, so we could play last Christmas when I went back to visit – and as always, I lost once more!

But today my brain must have been firing on all its cylinders, or maybe it was the coffee buzz that spurred me on to an amazing score of 283 – my all time Scrabble high! I was unstoppable, as I gathered up 48 points alone for the word “quirk” – what a quirk it was to be able to even spell that word out on the board. I gathered up a slew of points with silly little words like “gem” and “zoo”, using a strategic mind I didn’t even know I possessed, scoping out places where I could rake in triple letter scores with those crazy eight or ten point letters like “z” or “q”. I challenged my friend on a word or two, and she in turn informed me of an illegal Scrabble move that I was unaware of, all the while thoroughly enjoying ourselves with some friendly competition.

And as we pondered our brains for words, and laughed at the silliness of words we thought we could use, like “yo”, as in yo-yo or Yo!, a favorite rap phrase, time just seemed to slip away. We forgot to talk about all the things going on in our lives, the things that are of a more dramatic nature than trying to figure out how to use up the last letters you are holding of c, j, l, and r, so you don’t have to subtract them from your score. It felt good to get lost in something so innocent for a time, not thinking about why I haven’t heard back about the job I recently interviewed for, or getting caught up in any worrisome fears about the future. It felt good to escape for a time in something I love, the words; and I was reminded of the healing nature of mindfulness.

Why continue the frantic searching? I have learned where the answers lie…

Waking up to the realization that we are so much more than our physical selves is just that – waking up! Just as our physical bodies wake and stretch after a good night’s sleep, ready to face the day, our awakened souls are also bright and bushy tailed, ready to face a lifetime of living more from the heart and less from the mind. As the heart begins to open to all the love it discovers was always there, we can find ourselves swept away by all the wondrous ways to access this delicious feeling of love. And that is a good thing! For a time anyway. We find others like ourselves, and we find teachers and gurus and healers and mediums and books and CDs and DVDs and psychic fairs, all designed to help our emerging selves figure out how to live from this new found energy of the soul – phew! It can be a blessing to find the right guidance and healing, but it can also be overwhelming after a time. And numerous times I have gone into what I call my “bull in a china shop” mode in regard to my spiritual path, filling my calendar with everything I thought I had to do, to ensure my soul’s enlightenment. But the object of all the learning we gather is not to hang on the apron strings of another, but rather to find our own apron strings to hang onto; they are there inside all of us, the answers we have been looking for.

This is not to say that we don’t need all those gifted and amazing souls who help us during the start of our awakening. Lord knows, I would still be crumpled in a fetal position on my bed, crying my eyes out or else still throwing eggs at the pine trees in my ex-husband’s yard. No, all the wonderful souls on this earth and in spirit that have helped me to heal and grow have been treasures sent to me; helpful beyond words. But just as a child grows and matures, readying themselves to go out into the world, so do we in the name of our spiritual selves. Any good metaphysical teacher of any type will want their students to learn from them, rather than cling to them for constant guidance and answers. The last few readings I have had with mediums and intuitives were more like sessions of validation for me; telling me things that really, I already knew beforehand. Oh, I still came away with useful guidance, and of course I realize that the learning never stops, as I still take in various seminars and books, but in a much lesser degree. I find that I may actually be in a position to impart some pearls of wisdom, to help others as I have been helped. Granted, I have no formal training in anything metaphysical, I don’t have years of psychic experience. But I am starting to turn more and more to my soul, learning how powerful it is, actually trusting it! And you know, it feels good to be able to trust myself – confidence in what I hear and feel. I found a couple of passages that illustrate what I am trying to say – that I have learned where the answers lie, inside of me, much closer than I could have ever imagined.

 

This is part of a channeled message I read somewhere, sadly not having made note of the source, but the words really resonated with me and still do:

“Our true purpose is to help you connect with that higher part of yourself that is God. Once that is accomplished it is easy to see that you will never need to ask for answers outside of yourself. Hold your own power of free choice ever at the forefront of your being. Take your time and re-align your energy where it best suits you.”

 

And here is part of a passage from Luang Por Chah, a revered teacher of Buddhism:

“In the beginning you must rely on a teacher to instruct and advise you. When you understand, then practice. If you understand the practice it’s no longer necessary for the teacher to teach you; just do the work yourselves. You may wish to travel, to visit other teachers and try other systems. This is a natural desire. You will find that a thousand questions asked and knowledge of many systems will not bring you to the truth. Eventually you will get bored. You will see that only by stopping and examining your own mind can you find out what the Buddha talked about. No need to go searching outside yourself. Eventually you must return to face your own true nature.”

 

 

 

 

The fear of imperfection

Life is not all neat and tidy, presented to us all packaged up in pretty paper, with a lovely bow attached. No, more times than not, life can be messy, wrapped up in the funny papers instead. I tend to forget about the messiness of life when my own life is flowing so smoothly, with a few bumps in the road but not having to bust up the boulders that were in the way during so much of my life. But in recently reconnecting with a friend who is trying to find her way in life, having relocated to a new home many miles away just as I did, I am reminded of so many things; things about life itself and things about my own self.

My view of life here on earth is that of a classroom, with most of the lessons being learned in the experiential way, much like my internship I went through after studying various subjects in a school setting. And really, why else would we come here, if not to learn lessons from the messiness of life? Otherwise, wouldn’t we choose to stay in heaven, cavorting about in blissful perfection? No, we leave that place of wonder because our souls know how much growth comes from vast array of experiences on earth. And I remind myself that I chose to come here, to this place of many challenges, so that I could learn from all the imperfections. Relationships here are the perfect learning environment, as we dance our dances with one another; sometimes in step and sometimes stepping on each others’ toes.

After I woke up from my life I had been barely awake in for most of my years, I was able to realize and admit to myself that I struggle with issues of co-dependency and insecurity. When I did the test to determine what my Enneagram number is (the Enneagram is a system to help determine personality types), I came up as a nine, the peacemaker. Of course! I was always so afraid of conflict, of disagreements, of anything that would color my world and those in it less than perfect. And in my co-dependent way, I tried to control everyone and everything so they would be perfect and happy and peaceful. Now I can see that life and relationships are not always meant to be smooth as silk, although of course our ultimate goal is to be happy, especially with the ones we love. But along that road to happiness may be sacrifices made by one or the other, and a relationship is about loving honestly, not giving in to please everyone else just to calm the waters. Sometimes the sea has to boil, as well as ourselves. My ex-husband and I never argued in 27 years of marriage. I used to think that was something to be proud of, but now I see it as something that was so very wrong in our relationship.

So I welcome the teacher called imperfection, not running away and hiding in a corner until the storms pass. I find it is possible to love myself and others so fully with the constant knowing that we are all earth angels here together, all so perfectly imperfect.

Learning what friendship is all about

I had sadly wiped the slate of friendship clean throughout the years, focusing all my energies on my husband, my children and my work. The few friends I had seemed to slip away like sand through my fingers, as I blatantly ignored them in favor of my family. My introverted nature didn’t help matters, and I found the only friend I really had to do things with was my husband. Luckily I did manage to keep in touch with a high school friend, Denise, who lived out of state – and I was a poor friend to her, not responding to her invitations to visit. Bless her though, she kept our friendship going even though I was such a weak participant. I found myself becoming so envious of women who had a close circle of female friends. I wanted to be one of those women.

Mistakenly, I thought that having my husband as my only friend was enough. But as our children grew older and didn’t need or want my attention so much, I saw how limited my world of connections with others really was. And I also saw that my spouse and I were really not on the same page in so many ways, and we divorced. Now I was starting over from scratch, trying to remember not only how to make friends, but how to be a good friend. And I have learned so much.

I have learned that sometimes we come together as friends, for reasons unknown, only to find ourselves drifting apart from each other. But that is the way of life at times, and even though we don’t connect with those friends like we used to, they are still a connection in our hearts. I have learned not to burn so many bridges, as life is an ebb and flow, and I may flow back to old friends.

I have learned that we may seek out friends on the basis of shared interests, and it is always a joy to share our passions with one another. When I moved to Portland, these shared interests were a great way to meet people – the book club, the knitting group, the walking group. But as I began to make closer friends from members of these different groups, I realized that sometimes it is so true that opposites attract! In my mind, I had to find friends who liked the same music as me, who followed the same spiritual practice, who had similar lifestyles. How wrong I was on all those counts! I am passionate about music; most of my Portland friends listen to talk radio. But because they do, we have some enlightening discussions. My friend Vanessa in Minnesota loves her political science classes; I haven’t read a newspaper for years now, and I only do so when it is an election year. I find that because of all our unique interests, it opens up the gateway for learning, for discussion, for discovering new possibilities for my life.

Now I realize what friendship is all about. Friendship comes on many different levels.  Some friendships have deeper bonds that allow the sharing of more intimate thoughts, and there are casual friendships that are all about sharing lunch together once a month. Each type of friendship is equally important in our lives. The bond of friendship is one that goes beyond the superficial aspect of shared interests. It is a bond that comes from connecting with the true self of each person, a resonating from soul to soul. My friends are like a beautiful bouquet of flowers – different varieties of lovely blooms that bring me joy in all their unique ways.

My friend Denise & I with the “umbrella man” in Portland

My Minnesota friend Vanessa & I

Out to lunch with the “library ladies”

I took a little trip

I took a little trip the past couple of days, but not the kind where you leave your home. I went on an ego trip, the kind that literally trips you up; as my ego put the pedal to the metal, full throttle, taking me for a ride I really didn’t want to go on.

I count my spiritual awakening as one of the greatest and most significant life changes I have been through. I never want to go back to who I was before that, and I never will. I spent the majority of my life sleepwalking through it, but now I am awake and alive in a way that is so refreshing! It feels like a good stretch when you get out of  bed; this true self of mine shining through. Ah, but there can be some pitfalls with all this love if one is not careful, what I like to call “spiritual superiority”. This is when the awakened soul climbs up on a pedestal they have constructed for themselves, feeling as if they are the enlightened and exalted ones, better in so many ways than those poor creatures still dowsed in fear. These are the times I forget I have an ego. And believe you me, I have climbed up there a few times, and subsequently fallen off – thank goodness for that! The ego may be bruised and battered after falling, but the soul always says, “Thank you”.

And it’s funny, because I could see events leading up to my fall; I watched myself climb up to that pedestal where the ego likes to hang out. I had lunch with a couple of friends one bright, sunny day, and as we sat talking about one friend’s cute haircut she had just gotten, I found myself wanting to say, “Enough about her hair, what about mine? Isn’t mine pretty too?” Then the conversation turned to talk radio, which I don’t care to listen to, and I could feel myself pouting inside like a child, left out of all the attention. Then the next day the crabby side of me came out; the side that is short tempered with strangers who are just doing their job. I went to the Farmer’s Market in my neighborhood, and was stopped by a very nice young lady from the local electric company, wanting to explain a new program they have. As she was patiently going through her talk, I could feel my blood boil at what I felt was her pushiness, and it was all I could do to not say, “Leave me the hell alone, would you?!” But I held my tongue and just walked away, seething.

Then it all came to a head as I met with my financial adviser the other day, to look at my dwindling retirement account I have been living off of, trying to come up with a solution to save that money for the future and find some money for me now to live on. Well, I knew the answer – I am going to have to find a job, after being retired for three years. And bless his heart, this man had worked so hard to put together all of the data and numbers, showing me the reality of things in a very kind and patient manner. I was not upset with him for showing me the light. But after I got home, it was then that my ego dragged me into full meltdown mode; telling me I was a failure, a fool, an idiot for thinking I could play the retirement game before age 59, when I can use that money without any penalty. I felt angry and betrayed; having to work again was not part of the plan for my life now. My ego did not like it one bit, having to finally accept the fact that this really is part of the plan. But now I can see it as such, and accept that going back to the world of work is a path I am to go on, and the reasons will be revealed to me when I am ready.

I know that we can dream our dreams, and create what we feel is best for us by focusing on and ultimately manifesting those intentions. But then there are the times that it is not to be, and that’s when we have to let go and trust in God and the Universe, as we are guided and led to places and events that may seem unpleasant at the time, but afford us much growth and are exactly what we need. I want to enjoy my time here, not go through it kicking and screaming because what I thought was best for me did not transpire. I learn time and time again that God always brings what is for my highest good and the good of others, and I find that trust once more.

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